“We wanted to focus on the 'soft' side now, something that directly touches people with disabilities, and could change their lives.”
Shahid & Ann Carlson Khan
What happens when barriers are overcome?
As a University of Illinois student in the 1970s, Ann Khan remembers her pride in attending a university that was so accessible. “Everyday, I saw students coming and going to class in wheelchairs and was impressed with their ability to manage the demands of college just like any other student. At the time I had no idea that the U of I was unique.”
Ann and her husband, Shahid, have since learned that their alma mater is widely recognized for its many disability “firsts”. These include curb cuts, the first bus with a lift, the founding of wheelchair sports and the development of architectural accessibility standards that were later adopted nationally.
“Thinking about wounded soldiers coming back from the war who are now faced with disabilities makes me realize that there is still tremendous need in this area,” Ann shares. “Our population is also changing. The survival rate of premature infants who may have special needs and the growing number of aging people means that we must invest in research that allows people to lead healthy, independent, productive lives.”
The Khans’ gift of five endowed professorships to the Center on Health, Aging, and Disability will sustain and advance this critical agenda.
“We’ve made other donations to Krannert, the stadium and the library,” says Shahid. “But I consider that ‘hardware’. We wanted to focus on the ‘soft’ side now, something that directly touches people with disabilities and could change their lives. We’re giving back to the community and to the university that changed our lives.”